So Phoenix decided a while back she wanted to see a doctor to talk about the small bumps developing in her chest. I’d told her it was likely normal breast development (we’ve talked with both kids about puberty, tons – as according to their interest), but she still wanted to enlist the care of a doctor. I asked her if she wanted to see her pediatrician or if she’d like to see a gynecologist. After a short discussion she decided on the latter. We proceeded to the day steadily and she looked forward – in her typical sedate way – to the appointment.
You can imagine how finicky and cautious these physicians are with young girls – probably not to scare them. And I respect that, although in our household this stuff is pretty matter-of-fact – and my daughter has not been sexually abused – so the treatment was a bit odd. During the entirety of the examination another employee, a woman, was in attendance. The physician (a good doctor; my own) introduced himself and shook hands with the patient. He then spoke directly to her and asked her why she was there.
“I have two bumps in my chest, and I’d like to know if they’re normal.” Phoenix was a slim little reed in the smallest gown they had, a soft lavender one.
“You’re quite a nine year old,” he said. He asked a few questions and eventually proceeded to an exam – asking her before touching her. You would have thought my daughter was made out of glass, they were so scrupulously careful – but not tentative. They also treated the whole business with seriousness. It was good stuff and I felt a bit… I don’t know, weepy or something.
“No cycles yet, mom?” he asks (this time, to me). “No,” I say.
After a very gentle exam he closes up the robe. “Breast buds,” the practitioner practically mouths at me, with an almost secretive air.
To my daughter, he says, “Your boobies* are coming in. Do you know about periods?” She nods. He continues, “It means in a few years, maybe one or two, you might start your period.”
“This is already happening – at nine?” my daughter asks immediately. The conversation goes from there.
But it suddenly pops in my head this physician has interpreted my relative silence (as my daughter has handled the entire thing just fine), and perhaps common prejudices associated with the knowledge we homeschool (why does he know this? ’cause get what just about every grownup asks every kid upon meeting them? Yeah. What grade they’re in.) I am suddenly wondering if the physician and his assistant think I’m a uber-faith-based homeschooler shelterin’ mama bringing her daughter in with these shameful dirtypillows and we don’t talk narthin’ ’bout periods neither. I mean don’t even think I’m weird for perceiving this. The number one question I get from strangers, regarding homeschooling, revolves around Christinaity – and “sheltered” children (in fact I fielded this exact double-pronged question again, not an hour later, in another setting entirely!).
I am silently mirthful on this thought. “No sir,” I want to say. “You perceive incorrectly. I’m actually a feminazgul radical unschooler whose kids probably know way too much about how the world works, like on the way here we were belting out Carrie Underwood’s ‘Before He Cheats’* – and actually we do say words like ‘breasts’ in our house, I’m sure since you have a medical degree you’ve heard the term.” I am seriously not giving the guy a hard time, really, he did very well (and the whole thing was a hundred percent more awesome than how my parents introduced me to this stuff, which was… oh wait, they didn’t. Assery.). It was just funny.
The physician asks my daughter to call him, or “tell mom”, if anything comes up. He also explains periods in the most euphemistic way but – again, really, it’s fine. I mean think about it, all his caution, he probably wouldn’t want to offend a family who didn’t want to or hadn’t yet discussed this stuff with their kid(s). He’s in a delicate position.
Well anyway, Phoenix was a very proud young lady when we left. Believe it or not, I think she had actually been a tiny bit nervous. Not enough to disrupt her but just – a bit. I was touched. She is one of the most self-possessed kids about stuff like this.
Oh and by the way. We waited an hour between when we got there and when we were seen. Phoenix spied the exam table (she’s seen many such, of course), and asked:
“What does ‘the Ritter’ do?” She even put “the Ritter” in “air dick quotes” and used a low, serious, voice. Man we started laughing and then we couldn’t stop making jokes. She made the creepy light “eye” look at me. I joked it was like a giant clam that if you sat on it, would snap shut. When the doctor came in, as it happened, the assistant asked Phoenix to sit on THE RITTER (not calling it by its monstrous name of course) and the doctor hurriedly interjected with, “No no, it’s okay, she can stay in her seat.” When he left I leaned over and said to Phoenie in sotto voce, “They hadn’t fed it and they knew it was hungry”. We dissolved into paroxysms.
Seriously, most fun I’ve had in a gynecologist’s.
I should mention some rather awesome stuff happened today. Someone donated to the blog (thank you so, so much J.!) and it was the exact fund I needed to secure a bill that came in today. The landlord sent a crew over to build not only a fence, but fix our outlets – and we now have sink water pressure in the kitchen. This latter, if you’ve been to my house, you know has been a long time coming and has been a comically, I do mean comically small trickle of water since we moved in like a year and a half ago. There was some other really awesome stuff but I’m almost flopping around on the keyboard, I’m so tired. Just: a good day.
And yeah, my daughter is growing up.
As for Nels. He continues to grow tall and impossibly thinner. None of his pants fit because they’re all falling off. Seriously, I would be worried if he didn’t seem so full of energy, eat so well, and deliver “stools… gigantic and [with] no more odor than a hot biscuit.”
And so it goes. #familylife
* “boobies”? Just… No.
** When we sing along we don’t say the phrases “tramp” and “white trash”. But we’re cool with the rest of it. Just so you know.
Thank you for sending me that link! I’m glad it went so well. I could really feel Phoenix and her demeanor in the way you describe her.
Nine was the time when things got more complicated and interesting for me. I REALLY don’t like to use the usual negative tone when talking about that 9-25 year old, Reviving Ophelia, time but it was hard (for me. I know everyone has their own experience and I don’t like adding to negative expectations). I wouldn’t want to go back and face it all again. But it was also similar in many ways to a year I had very recently; Very difficult, very confusing–sort of a trial by fire–but also more instructional than any other time in my life. Ever. This one year–from November 2009 to November 2010–was worse than the worst of middle school and high school for me but I feel like I have grown about three incarnations’ worth during this short time. So I have to feel that it was really worth it. It was the same kind of shortcut to wisdom that those age 9-25 years can be for a kid who’s paying attention.
Anyway, I guess where I am going with all of this is that, whether things are smooth or rocky for the next several years, I think Phoenix is going to quite a wise and amazing young woman at the end of this next phase of growing up.
Oh, and I love THE RITTER! It’s a little scary!
I remember making an appt. for the very same reason when I was slightly older than Phoenix, maybe 11. Could even be the same Dr. The appt. was very straightforward, respectful and mature. I went in without my mom and handled the conversation and exam with the Dr. I don’t recall a nurse in the room, I think that practice started a few years later.
This also makes me think of an earlier experience where my mom had to speak with a nurse at this office when I was about 5. The nurse was acting very put out that she had to draw blood from a young child, implying that I would freak out (it was the second time in 2 days, the sample from the previous day was not enough for some reason). She was telling us a terrible story about a child that flipped out on her the last time she did this and how they had to restrain him. I am positive I was sitting there quietly and maturely. I could feel my mom stiffening and then she told the nurse that I wouldn’t flip out and that she could just draw the blood. I remember her talking to me afterward about this nurse. I don’t remember her words but I know she was explaining that she was not professional and didn’t know how to speak to people. She basically explained that how she expected the child to act probably had a lot to do with him getting this upset. I know I was treated like any other adult from then on and always had positive experiences with that Dr.
It is nice to hear how mature Phoenix is and the level of respect she has in her home. When I was a bit older than her I remember realizing that it was unusual that I was always treated the same as an adult in my home. I think that is when I started to understand other kids weren’t treated this way. At that time I didn’t see this as a positive thing, just recognized it. It is nice to see another young woman treated with respect and taking control of her health with the support of her mother.
I’ve never paid attention to the brand of the exam table thing, but now I’m hoping like hell that my OB/GYN has… (duhn, duhn, duhn)… THE RITTER.
Hi again, LSK. I have to add just one more little thing about growing up. Now that I think about it, most of my stress came from being at school. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to spend my time at home, being myself and doing my own thing. That could have been pretty amazing! I mean, I guess some kids love being at high school but…
Alma, who is nine too, is talking a lot with me about her changing body and feelings. she is very curious about how her puberty will be, and if it will be like what’s shown on TV. I hope it will make her time easier and less lonely than it was for me. Good for you both that it was such a good experience, to be taken seriously.
Just a comment – the word ritter means “rider” or “knight” in German. For some reason I thought of that when I saw the picture. What that says about the table, or for that matter, about me, I have no idea. I just thought it was funny.
I am so glad that she was able to ask for, and get what she wanted. I remember being that age, getting weird bumps in my chest and thinking I had breast cancer (though no breasts) and trying to pop the bumps (this was extremely painful and ineffective)and just kind of figuring I would die. I know, drama sounding stuff, but I was a kid who had no idea what was going on and felt I couldn’t ask. I would have loved to go to a doctor and be told what was going on, but I could not ask.
I don’t mean that I am so glad you are so awesome (and not that you aren’t) but that I am so glad that one more kid can be in a situation where she feels safe to ask and get information instead of just kind of fading away.
I know a couple girls in that shitty fading away kind of situation right now and hope that there is some way to help, and that my own kid can grow up with the help he needs from us and everyone else.
Those tables are soooo creepy looking, I am glad that you guys had a fun time too.